With £90k of funding and a new coordinator in place, a Diocese of Guildford project to support young people is all set to reinvigorate its important work in Waverley Borough – but needs your help.
The ‘Bridges’ scheme, founded to help disadvantaged young people address behavioural problems and realise their potential, was granted just under £90k from BBC Children in Need earlier this year, funding its paid coordinator role and the expenses of volunteers for a further three years.
Established in 2014 in partnership with Surrey Police, ‘Bridges’ currently sees 13 young people supported by a team of trained volunteer mentors, meeting for activities that can involve anything from chatting over a coffee to going bowling. Through these meetings, the project is able to help participants improve life skills, build self-awareness and self-discipline, form healthy relationships with peers and break destructive patterns of thought and behaviour.
David Paterson, who was appointed as ‘Bridges’ project coordinator in early May, said:
“My first month has been amazing – I’ve met the agencies, mentors and the young people. It’s clear that participants really enjoy meeting with their mentor, having someone to talk to that is not from a statutory agency and someone that they can bond with.”
Young people including carers, pupils with poor school attendance, and those subject to either a Child in Need or Child Protection Plan, are typically referred via the police, their school or the Family Support Work team and social services.
Jennie, a headteacher from a school that refers young people to the project, said: “For these students having someone outside of school that they can meet with and discuss a variety of issues is a highlight of their week – they also have fun!
“The project has made a massive difference to a small selection of our students and is a service that we feel very fortunate to have access to.”
“We have no shortage of referrals to the project, but we do need more mentors. Volunteers Week is the perfect time for people to step forward!”
David added: “We have no shortage of referrals to the project – it has a fantastic reputation among statutory and voluntary groups and some young people are even referred directly by their parents, which shows how highly it is regarded and trusted – but we do need more mentors. Volunteers Week is the perfect time for people to step forward!
“The role entails working with participants individually for 1-2 hours each week or fortnight, and the normal commitment is for around a year. We provide full training and support and no experience is necessary except good life experience!
“I’d encourage anyone who thinks they could commit to being a volunteer mentor to contact me directly to find out more. It’s a hugely rewarding challenge.”
Subject to further funding, the ‘Bridges’ scheme is hoped to expand into Guildford Borough later this year.
To find our more, David Paterson can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or 07805 401762.